“Don’t worry be happy.”
That is our mantra here at TBOH all week as we provide the multitude of reasons why you should feel great about the 2013 Philadelphia Phillies. This edition focuses on the bullpen, that unheralded yet oh so important group of pitchers that can be the difference between winning a division and watching the playoffs from home.
Before we breakdown this year’s rag tag group lets take a quick look back at last years pen.
It was only a year ago that Ruben Amaro outbid the rest of baseball (and himself) to land Jonathan Papelbon. Paps replaced Ryan Madson, and actually pitched quite well. He logged 70 innings with an ERA+ of 164. Not too shabby. Papelbon’s biggest problem was that Amaro gave him money that most fans would agree would have been best served at other positions.
Papelbon didn’t give fans reason to complain when he took the mound, but the same can’t be said about the rest of last years relievers. If you have low grade amnesia about that group of disappointments I won’t blame you. Remember Jose Contreras? How about Chad Qualls?
The 2012 pen was full of old relievers, who were mere band aid solutions, and young unproven arms We know now the bullpen didn’t go according to plan. The vets broke down, and none of the young phenoms were ready for prime time just yet.
Thankfully there is reason to have hope for this years group. Headlined by Papelbon, the bullpen will be a formidable mix of youth and experience (not to be confused with last years has-beens and not-quite-yets). If you have your doubts it’s understandable, but one name should change all that. Mike Adams.
Mike Adams signed a two-year deal with the Phillies, and should have the 8th inning locked down as long as he’s in town. He’s put up nothing but zeroes this spring, putting to rest any health concerns there may have been. Adam’s has been one of the best relief pitchers the past three years, dominating the late innings for San Diego and Texas. He combines an above average heater with a sharp breaking slider that hitters can’t pick up until it’s too late.
When identifying the biggest areas of need Ruben saw the 8th inning as a hole that needed filling. Cue Mike Adams. Call him the stop gap, bridge, or whatever metaphor suits best. Either way the Phillies will be able to finally hold a late inning lead.
However, a bullpen is only as good as the sum of all it’s parts. Papelbon and Adams will be relied upon a great deal, but they can’t pitch every night. The sixth and seventh inning roles will be filled by a mix of familiar names.
Antonio Bastardo will be the first lefty out of the pen, bringing his nasty heater and tight slider. Bastardo was all over the place last year, but has shown flashes of dominance over his career. The key as always with him is control. If Bastardo can locate his fastball, he’ll give Charlie another late game weapon.
Jeremy Horst and Raul Valdes look to have won spots as the other lefties this spring. Horst was given an oppurtunity last year after Jake Diekman struggled with consistency, and did nothing but strike guys out. Horst’s and Valdes’ continued success at racking up K’s have earned them slots on the opening day roster. With so many late game match ups to consider, having three reliable lefties will be a huge boon for Charlie.
Stutes is working his way back from shoulder surgery, and has show some rust. Just last night he gave him five runs in less than an inning against the Red Sox, which won’t bode well in the battle with Aumont. The stuff is there, but the control is still a step behind.
Aumont on the other hand has pitched well in his brief work with the Phillies this spring. His small sample size is larger when you factor in his work with team Canada in the WBC. While those mounties up north were denied much success in the tournament, Aumont shined when called upon in big situations. His hard sinker jammed the likes of Ryan Braun, and showed signs that there might actually be a valuble asset to come out of the Cliff Lee deal!
For those of you who have been keeping count, you’ll realize that there is still on spot left to fill. This role is quite possibly the most unheralded in all of baseball, possibly all of sports. It’s the role I’ve come to know as The Garbage Man.
The Garbage Man is that pitcher who is called upon to throw three to four innings when the team is down ten runs. He pitches any and all innings, never getting any recognition for the outs he gets or the runners he holds on base.
To fill this important role the Phillies have brought back Chad Durbin. Durbin last pitched for the Phils from 2008-2010 filling the same role he is asked to play once more. He out dueled the likes of Aaron Cook and Rodrigo Lopez in spring training, and has solidified himself as Charlies go to guy to eat up innings when you don’t want to wast one of your good pitchers (sorry Chad).
There you have the 2013 Phillies bullpen. Ruben and Co. have assembled the perfect balance of youth and vets, who all can bring the cheese when needed. When the arms start to drag and suffer lingering injuries, they have a wealth of talent in AAA to draw on. Don’t be surprised to see Jake Diekman, Justin De Fratus, and Michael Stutes all make appearances for the big club before the season is over. Health is a fleeting luxury, that can only be hedged against with depth. For an organization that is mighty thin at several positions, their bullpen depth will carry them through the dog days of summer. And remember fans, don’t worry be happy. After all, no ones blown a save yet.